Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Day 68: Göreme to Malatya. 430 km, 6.25 hours, 21.5-38.5°C

Heavy breathing outside our hotel room signalled surprise visitors.
Several balloons were making the most of the wind direction which brought them over Göreme at sunrise.

That was a lovely wake up call. We wanted to pack the bike to be ready for a quick getaway after breakfast.
We headed east. A deliciously cool 21.5°C for the first couple of hours. 
 Rolling hills ahead, terricific roads, some resurfacing going on. A stop to look at a Massey Furguson and for a drink and then through recently  harvested valleys and hillsides, over two mountain passes (1900m).

Then dry desert landscapes punctuated with green apricot trees  as we ride to Makatya in temperatures in the high 30's
If you have eaten dried apricots lately they probably came from this region of the world.

I have included some photos I took from the aeroplane when we flew over Turkey on our way to Croatia.
Malatya and our next destination, Erzurum, are both on the flight map. 
It is really interesting to be riding through places we have seen from above. 
It looked so barren and with very few towns. Although there is desert the tawny colour was probably ripening wheat fields. We rode through  green valleys and could see how irrigation is being used to make the deserts bloom with crops.

A good easy ride today. 








Looking cooler over the next few days.
Happy to share some of this sunny largesse!

We are riding through these photos of Turkey that we took of Turkey as we flew to Croatia in early August.


Adventures in and around Göreme, Cappadocia.

We feel very welcome at Kelebek Hotel.
After we settled into our room in a fairy chimney we went out for a cultural evening and dinner. 
Wow, almost 2 ½ hours of music and dancing. Including some audience participation - sorry, there are  no photos of that.
The folk dancing was precision dancing aided by talc on the floor. Spinning, high kicks and  energetic Cossack type folk dances. The precision, agility and speed of the male dancers was breathtaking. 

Next morning an early 4.45am start for the balloon ride.
Absolutely worth it. 
Butterfly Balloons has a well-oiled procedure for their flights. Strong team members  and our pilot Mike was a gem.
When we landed as I climbed out of the basket one of the men did a Snatch Olympic lift and lowered me to the ground.
Champagne awaited.

Back to the hotel for breakfast and then off to explore southern Cappadocia.
First to Derinkuyu underground city.  We descend deep down through narrow tunnels as we explore  8 levels of the underground city (there are 37 of  these underground cities). The cities were built by the Hittites 2000BCE. They were a safe haven from marauders.  Early Christians enlarged the underground cities and established chapels and lived in them during times when they were being persecuted. Later, during the Byzantine era it provided protection from Muslim Arabs and later the Mongolian incursions in the 14th Century.  After the region fell to the Ottomans the cities were used as refuges from the Turkish Muslim rulers. Christians lived in this region until the 1923 population exchange between Turkey and Greece and Armenia.

We visited the huge cave cathedral and Selime Monastery, the largest rock-cut monastery in Cappadocia. A wee bit of a climb up the tufa rock to the caverns. Well rewarded with an extraordinary cathedral with some artwork on the ceilings and a kitchen with a huge chimney for the Smoke from the tandir ovens in the floor. Splendid views over the nearby village and countryside. The monastery also included a training seminary centres ago.

Then in the heat of the afternoon  it was time for a walk! 3.7km. We descended 300 steps down into the Ilhara chasm with a cool stream and green trees to shade us. There were many Christian churches carved into the rocks along this chasm. The first which we visit is the Chapel of Daniel which has frescoes painted in the 11th century. They depict biblical stories, for e ample the annunciation of Mary. Other chapels were high in the rock faces along the valley walls. A few small stops to admire the views and we were home.

Turkey is officially a secular republic. The government statistics show that the population of Turkey is 99.8% Moslem (72%Sunni, and 25% Alevis belonging to the Shia denomination). Schools include mandatory religion classes.
All of these chapels and Christian sites have been preserved with government assistance. In 1902 the non Moslem population was around 20%. After the population exchange  after the Greek-Turkish war in 1923 it was 2%. The compulsory exchange was based on religion not ethnicity. In the population exchange nearly all the Anatolian orthodox Christians including native Turks were expelled and the 500,000 Muslims in Greece went to Turkey to the villages and farms vacated by the Christians who in turn went to the areas vacated by the Muslims leaving Greece. The story is told in Birds without Wings by Louis de Bernieres. 

In the evening we enjoyed dinner at a private home. What a privilege to meet the families of our hotel host, Ali, and and his friend, Mehmet.
Extra interest was that his house was the location for the award winning movie 'Winter Sleep'.

This stay was turning out to be more energetic than most rest days so we decided to stay another night. That meant we could have a real rest day.

On the  morning of our rest day, Haj took us on a wonderful culinary adventure to Ali's organic garden where the staple vegetables of Turkish cuisine thrive.  Peppers, tomatoes - grown Roman style on the ground, aubergine, pumpkins grown for seed, watermelons, strawberries, onions. 
There were also fruiting apple trees, quince trees, walnut, peach, apricot and pear trees and grapes growing Roman style on the ground.

Then to a special place for breakfast prepared by Turkan and Naray. We watched as they made flat bread and sat down to a feast.
We had three new things to taste. Walnut jam made from green walnuts; pumpkin jam and grape molasses.
I have made collages of some of the images so that I show you the story.

Dancing girl.
Another dancing girl.
A very strong man.
Into the underground city.
...and up to the Selime Monastery.
Into the Ilhara chasm. Frescoes at DAniel's chapel dating back to the 11th century.
Kelebek garden. The pumpkins in the lower left will be harvested for pumpkin seed.
Turkan and Naray prepare flatbreads.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Day 67: Mersin, Tarsus to Göreme, Cappadocia. 240km 28°C

Some days we are truly blessed by strangers we meet on our journey.
My hope is that sometimes we reciprocate.
You will meet some of these people in today's blog post.

There are also some very modern techologies and facilities in Turkey.
Today it is traffic lights in Tarsus and the service centre on the motorway.

We wanted to go to the birth place of the apostle Paul. 
There is a site in Tarsus purported to be the ruins of the house he was born in and a well.
We have been riding through lots of countryside that Paul  may have walked and visited by boat in his second and third journeys through Asia Minor in the middle of the first century AD.. For example in the Acts of the Apostles we read that he journeyed on foot and by boat from Antioch and Tasrsus and at preached at places that exist today either as ruins or places today... Troy and Ephesus, inland in Galatia, Caesarea in Cappadocia.

While we were in Tarsus I met a couple of  delightful men reading the paper and chatting over tea. 
Then I was truly blessed by the man who was tending the public toilets - including a blessing with orange flower water as I left. Sometimes it is the humblest among us who give out a gift beyond price. My heart sang.
Later I met Gamze who taught me some Turkist pronunciation.
In the afternoon I met a very happy bridal couple who were being photographed at our hotel. THis is the season for weddings and they take place over several days.

This was a peach of a day.

Paul's well in Tarsus.



This man s a blessing.

This is the first time we have seen these clever traffic lights. The pole and arch have diodes that light up red or green. Impossible to ignore.
This man blessed me in ways he will never know.

The highway north is many km of three lane motorway which Orlanda thrived on.
Mountains surrounded with summer haze.

Gamze. Wonderful Gamze taught me some Turkish. Tesekkür ederim, thank you Gamze.
The road stop was the best we have ever visited anywhere in the world. 
One of the features of the new development in Turkey is that the design and facilities are very modern.
For example the toilets are immaculate.




We have often seen farmers driving their tractors with their wives on the left mudguard. Here we also have a little boy who is curious about us.

And into Göreme our hometown for the next two nights.
Ahhh a rest day. But will it be restful?
This happy bride and groom were at our hotel.
 Our home for the night. In a fairy chimney cave at Kelebek Hotel where Kiwis are especially welcome. Ali began his business in 1993 with a few rooms for backpackers. Now he has a 47 room smart hotel which provides a wonderfully warm welcome. 

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Day 66: Alanya to Mersin, Turkey. 340km 32-34.5°C

This is the 505th post I have made on my Pearls on Wheels Blog.

This means that during  the last four and a half years I have had at least 505 days on the back of the Bike with Dick.

I began the blog when we set off with Ken and Shirley from Vancouver to Prudhoe Bay in June 2012. We rode to Ushuaia in Tierra Del Fuego. 
El fin del mundo -  The end of the world, the beginning of everything

Since then Dick and I have ridden around Australia and in 32 states of the USA and five provinces of Canada, and now 25 countries in Europe and Scandanavian and Turkey. 
Prior to this we rode in the Indian Himalaya with Mike Ferris.
Around 140,000kmin total.
Quite a ride!

Now about today's ride...